top of page
  • johannaj59

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is not exactly a new thing in recruitment, but it is a bit of a buzzword at present. It is the type of bias that all of us have, and applies most specifically when people are recruiting. Unconsciously we will all tend to favour a certain type, and while we may not discriminate illegally, we might still favour somebody from a similar background, a similar age, a similar height or even, people with beards, red hair or one that has been highlighted most recently, we discriminate against those with a body mass index of over 30. Interestingly enough this type of bias is the most intractable to remove. Concentrating on objective measures like performance, track record, capability, professionalism are just very hard. Especially if you are not an experienced recruiter. Where the debate is becoming most acute is over artificial intelligence, because no matter how hard you try to make computer systems impartial, they will only reflect the prejudices of those who have set up the program in the first place. Let me give you a little example, recently the BBC ran an item about machine learning, they tried to teach a computer to spot the ideal selfie. It worked brilliantly, except the original sample they gave featured only young white women. Guess what, everything else was rejected as unsuitable. Now that type of bias can be adjusted, but supposing your superefficient, super intelligent system slightly prefers people who listen to George Michael, and you have a standing order with Oxfam? And do not fool yourself, that information is out there and can be looked at. The world is a scary place right now, lots of decisions we used to make are now done by machines. Surely we have a duty to make sure that they do the job better than us, not merely backup our imperfect prejudices? To subscribe to this blog click here.



bottom of page